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May accused of 'desperation' over post-Brexit funding

By Julian Shea in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-03-05 03:36

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Smith England hairdresser salon during a visit to Salisbury, Britain, 04 March 2019. [Photo/IC]

‘No part of the country left behind’ under scheme, says minister

Political opponents have reacted angrily to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for special post-Brexit funding for less well-off areas, accusing her of trying to buy support for her Brexit plans.

The “Stronger Towns Fund” will be divided into two sections, with one billion pounds ($1.32 billion) distributed according to needs, and a further six hundred million pounds that communities can bid for.

"For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread," said May. "Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities.

"Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change - that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control.”

More than half the money is for the North of England and the Midlands, regions which tended to vote for Leave in the 2016 referendum, but which are heartlands of support for the opposition Labour Party.

Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the proposal "smacks of desperation from a government reduced to bribing MPs to vote for their damaging flagship Brexit legislation".

Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is scheduled for March 29. May’s latest attempt to secure parliamentary backing for her terms will take place on or before March 12, and she will need every vote she can get after previous heavy defeats.

Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire rejected suggestions the vote and the funding were linked.

"This funding is there regardless of the outcome, but obviously we want to see a deal happening, we believe that is what is in the best interests of our country,” he said, adding that it “leaving no part of our UK behind" was what May really believed in.

Labour MP Alex Sobel, who favors a second referendum on Brexit, called the fund "a drop in the ocean" compared to money lost by leaving the EU.

Former Conservative MP Anna Soubry, who now sits with The Independent Group of MPs told Sky News: "We need to go behind this new fund and see it for what it is - a desperate measure to buy votes, and sadly this government has a strong record on that score.

"The support of the DUP (Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose MPs provide May’s government with its majority) was secured with a 1-billion-pound bung-for-votes to prop up the government after it lost its majority.

"Now Theresa May is so desperate to get votes for her bad withdrawal agreement she is relying on the same old trick.

“Voters will not be fooled - especially those in areas which voted Leave and are now demanding a People's Vote because they know, whichever way you do it, Brexit will harm their futures.”

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